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COURT CANNOT LOOK FOR EVIDENCE WHERE A PARTY ABANDONS HIS PLEADINGS

Dictum

Once a party abandons his pleadings it is not the business of the court to look for evidence from the other party so as to base a case on facts which the plaintiff does not plead and cannot rely upon. Judgment is given in respect of material facts pleaded and proved at the trial. The parties as well as the court cannot go outside the pleadings. Facts are pleaded, evidence is led in support of the pleadings. The court is therefore bound to adjudicate on the issues arising from the pleadings. Where therefore evidence led is not based on the facts pleaded such evidence goes to no issue: Emegokwue v. Okadigbo (1973) N.S.C.C. p.220.

— Olatawura, JSC. Adesanya v Otuewu (1993) – SC.217/1989

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THE STAGE PLEADINGS ARE SETTLED

The respondent, as plaintiff produced exhibits M, M1 photograph and negative to support averment in her pleadings that she is the daughter of L.O. Ukeje (deceased). The defendant/appellant denied the averment in the plaintiff’s pleadings. At that stage pleadings are settled. At trial, if the defendant seeks to disprove the plaintiffs documentary evidence (i.e. exhibits M, M1) which was used to support her claim to being the daughter of the deceased, the defendant is not bound to plead that the plaintiff’s documentary evidence is false, fraudulent or forged. The defendant is to cross-examine him and lead evidence to show beyond reasonable doubt that exhibit M, M1 are forgeries. This the defendants appellants were unable to do.

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Ukeje v. Ukeje (2014)

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WHERE PLEADINGS RAISE NO TRIABLE ISSUE OR DEFENSE

Akinola & Anor. v. Solano (1986) 4 SC 106, where the Supreme Court per Oputa JSC, (God bless his soul) had stated inter alia thus: “It is time Courts…begin looking critically at the pleadings and where appropriate giving judgement on the pleadings, if no triable issue of fact, Plaintiff’s case should be considered on his pleading and the applicable law. Where the Plaintiffs statement of claim does not disclose a cause of action … instead of filing a Statement of Defense, the Defendant should move the Court to have the case dismissed. Alternatively, where the Statement of Defense does not answer, deny …. the essential facts on which the Plaintiff’s case rests, the Plaintiff should be courageous enough to ask for judgement on his Statement of Claim.”

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FACTS / AVERMENTS PLEADED BUT NOT CONTROVERTED ARE DEEMED ADMITTED

It is a general principle of law that facts pleaded, or averments deposed to in an affidavit, if not specifically challenged or controverted, are deemed admitted and require no further proof, except where the facts are obviously false to the knowledge of the court. There is a plethora of authorities on this, such as, The Honda Place Ltd. Vs Globe Motor Holdings Nig. Ltd. (supra), Ajomale Vs Yaduat (No.2) (supra); Ogunleye Vs Oni (1990) 4 SC 130; CBN Vs Interstella Communications Ltd. (2017) LPELR 43940 (SC) @ 620; Nishizawa Ltd Vs Jthwani (1984) 12 SC 234.

– O.K. Kekere-Ekun, JSC. Lagos State Govt. v. Abdul Kareem (2022) – SC.910/2016

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HOW PLEADING OF FACT IS DONE

How now should the respondent have pleaded the invalidity of the transaction? In considering whether the invalidity of the transaction was pleaded, I must bear in mind the fact that pleadings are no longer required to be technical in formulation. Subject to the requirement that parties must not offend against any of the known rules of pleadings as laid down by law, such as that they should not plead evidence or omit to plead facts which, when proved, may result in surprise to the other side, or facts which are frivolous or vexatious, or which may tend to prejudice, embarrass or delay the trial of the action, all that a pleader is now required to do in such a case is, where necessary, to allege illegality or invalidity and plead facts from which inferences of law thereof could be drawn: see on this Knowles v. Roberts (1888) 38 Ch.D. 263, at p.270 to 271; Willis v. Lovick (1901) 2 K.B. 195. That is the proper rule. But the court will itself take notice of the illegality or invalidity of a contract on which a party is relying if it appears on the face of the contract or from the facts pleaded, although the party has not expressly averred that it is illegal or invalid: see Windhill Local Board v. Vint (1890) 45 Ch.D 357; Gedge v. Royal Exchange Assurance (1900) 2 Q.B. 214.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Adesanya v Otuewu (1993) – SC.217/1989

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PLEADINGS SHOULD NOT CONTAIN LAW OR MIXED LAW & FACT

It is well settled that every pleading must state facts and not law. A party is not expected to plead conclusions of law or mixed fact and law. However, conclusions of law can be drawn from material facts pleaded. It is also unnecessary to set out in a pleading content of a public statute.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Finnih v. Imade (1992)

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ALL FACTS ON WHICH EVIDENCE WILL BE GIVEN MUST BE PLEADED

A legal battle does not permit of surprises. A legal battle is very much like a boxing match or a tennis match where the opponent is known and the instruments of battle i.e., boxing gloves or tennis racquets and ball, as the case may be, are in plain view for all to see. No surprises are intended. In a Military battle however, surprise is fair game. The: enemy is not to know his opponents weapons or battle strategy. The enemy can surreptitiously plant bombs, land mines, etc. An ambush is a legitimate battle strategy. What the Appellant did by relying on the Chinese regulation without first pleading it, is a veritable ambush and a Court cannot rely on such evidence.

– O. Daniel-Kalio, JCA. Egypt v. Abdoulaye (2017) – CA/K/540/2014

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